Book Review - Secret Scribbled Notebooks by Joanne Horniman

Reading Secret Scribbled Notebooks by Joanne Horniman I felt cheeky accidently picking up Kate’s private diaries.  Joanne does a great job of getting into Kate’s head to be able to divulge all of her inner most thoughts.  Horniman uses four points of view (three notebooks and typewritten pages) in addition to using the first person narrative enabling the reader to develop a close relationship to Kate, the seventeen year old narrator.  One of Kate’s notebooks is written as more of a fantasy of herself in third person.
Joanne uses a technique of a number of different notebooks (coloured yellow, red and blue) for Kate to divulge different secrets and thoughts.  The majority of the story however is written on The Wild Typewritten Pages (which we find out later she wrote with hindsight once she was given a typewriter). 

Kate is at point at transition point in her life wanting to make big decisions for herself.  She is thinking about love and what it means, and about home and where that is.   She is ready to explore these big themes as she finishes up her final year at school. 

I read it with a little scepticism about the truth in the story when it is delivered by Kate in her wild typewritten pages and notebooks as this technique allows the unreliable narrator to sneak through.  At points I also wondered about the idea of using so many different notebooks to tell the story. 

Having said all of that, Joanne Horniman writes a great story that takes us, the reader, into the mind of a girl in transition.  She takes us on a journey with Kate and we are given her inner most secrets along the way.  I was taken back to my own years of transition and the diaries I kept.

Have you read this and what did you think?

If you kept diaries as a teenager did you explore these issues and did anyone else ever get their hands on the diaries? 

Book Review: Notes from the Teenage Underground by Simone Howell

I enjoyed this novel of Simone Howell’s.  It is the classic struggle of a teenage girl who is in a friendship group of three struggling to find her own sense of identity.  Seventeen year old girl, Germaine (Gem or Gem-Gem as she is known by her friends) Gordon struggles to find people who like her and relate to her.  She loves movies, her hippy-feminist mother, her friends, Lo and Mira, and her co-worker, Dodgy, (at least she thinks she does) from the video store.  The main character Gem is tight with Lo and Mira and has been for a number of years.  Lo, Mira and Gem come up with a plan to do something radical to help draw people to them, whilst ensuring that they continue to be different to the mainstream (or Barcode people as referred to by Lo).  Lo has placed herself as the leader of the group, daring the others to take risks and playing them off against each other with their insecurities.  Lo is uncomfortable with the fact that Gem has a very close relationship with her mother, Bev, as she lacks this herself. 

Gem also works at the local video store with Dodgy and Marco where they all share a passion for movies and the process of making them.  Gem is desperate to be like everyone else, to fit in, even to the point of wanting to lose her virginity.  She uses films, haiku and a range of inspirational guides to discover the meaning of friendship and family.  Gem discovers that she is more comfortable behind the lens observing life around her.

Howell tells the story in the first person from Gem’s point of view which works very well with all of the introspection of a seventeen year old.  The chapters are short and to the point with great headings (ie Halo of authenticity - when Lo brings a mushroomed drunk Gem home to Bev and they both come out of it looking like angels).  Howell has captured the sense of the teen going through a transition so well; the tough decisions they need to make, the sacrifices, the friendships, and how they relate to the family and the world throughout.  Gem’s voice is spot on for a seventeen year old with the language that Howell has given her.

I could relate to the struggles of Gem and the tension of wanting to fit in with her peers, not wanting to change herself to the point of losing who she is and still being drawn to the loving relationship she has with her mother.  Gem is going through the moment of trying to understand who she is and where she fits into the world around her and which is something most teenagers struggle with.  

I enjoyed a number of things about this novel.  One was that it took me back to the teenage angst that so many of us went through or are going through and the realisations that come to us.  It is a great moment when Gem sees herself in Ponyface Roberts when Ponyface realises she was living the shadow of Bliss Dartford. 

‘I looked at her long, miserable face and suddenly saw myself.’

I also really enjoyed Gem’s relationship with her absent mentally ill drug taking father and the complexity there.  The only thing that bugged me a little was a slight feeling of implausibility to the truth of what was going on in Lo’s life. 

This would be a great book for older teenagers and adults wishing to reminisce about the trauma of those teen years.  

Mum goes back to school

Wow this year is scooting away from me.  Already I am in my fourth week at TAFE writing words, words and more words, listening, work shopping and musing over all things literary.  I have had to really work on my self confidence as I am now surrounded by really great writers, editors and thinkers.  It feels like a real privilege to be in classes with them and to be tutored by authors, the experts in the field.  I know that already have grown in my writing and am sure that this is a year that will challenge me (hopefully not to the point I crack).

I have had to make a some changes at home to make it all work.  There are a heap of jobs and things that got done when I wasn't studying full time that are crying out for attention (don't talk to me about the garden).  The boys (all of them..) find themselves with a slightly increased workload around the house.  I try not to feel guilty that I can't make it to the swimming carnival, can't come and watch them race.  I have already had to say to the youngest that he can't offer my help after he volunteered me to make the costumes for a filming clip.

I feel as though I am constantly stealing time now either writing or reading or being mum.   I know that as I get more confident in what I am doing, and more organised with my study times, it will be better...I hope.  For now, just don't look in the corners of my house, or in fact anywhere in it.  .